Multi-generational workplaces have become common as new graduates work with older employees who have delayed retirement. The ability to lead a team with a blend of older and younger workers is a vital skill for managers in these diverse organizations.
One key to bridging the age gap is to understand common objectives for older and younger workers. While each person is unique, older workers tend to like a stable workplace with strong coworker relationships. Many also appreciate consistent work activities that don't vary much from day to day. In contrast, younger workers are used to multi-tasking and prefer a variety of work activities. They may also prefer opportunities to use technology in lieu of regular face-to-face interaction with coworkers.
Create Diverse Work Teams
Building diverse work teams with employees from different generations helps promote teamwork and cooperation. When younger and older workers collaborate to achieve shared goals, they must go through the process of communicating and discussing needs and challenges. While simply forcing people to work together won't bridge the age gap, assembling diverse work teams sets the stage for an open and respectful culture. Seasoned older workers can pick up some of the energy and technology skills of younger workers, while younger employees can pick up some maturity and wisdom from older colleagues.
Training and Development
Just as businesses train for ethnic, racial and cultural diversity, you must train employees on how to work effectively with those in different age groups. This means helping employees develop a basic understanding of the differences between old and young workers. For example, younger workers are more experienced with conflict-resolution strategies, while older generations often need to learn to navigate through team conflicts. On the other hand, younger workers are often impatient and need to be taught how to work with structure, discipline and patience.
Motivating older and younger workers often requires customized incentive programs. Older workers tend to value fair compensation, good benefits and a stable work environment. For example, a veteran who mentors younger staff might be rewarded with a leadership position or mentor bonus. Many younger workers value an active role in setting policy, a diverse set of tasks and positive reinforcement. If a young sales rep participates in setting his monthly sales goal, he might feel more ownership of it. Along with informal feedback, regular awards and recognition programs compel younger workers to go above and beyond their job expectations
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